News / Middle East

Corruption Probe Seen as Challenge to Turkish PM's Authority

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Turkish police have detained at least 49 people in Istanbul and Ankara as part of a high-level corruption probe into alleged bribery connected to public tenders.  The move is being widely interpreted as a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Istanbul’s police chief Huseyin Capkin was dismissed Thursday, in the latest fallout from one of Turkey's largest-ever judicial probes into government corruption. The sons of senior ministers, including the Interior Minister, were detained, as were numerous high-level bureaucrats, and dozens of senior police officers have been fired or reassigned. The government claims the officers failed to inform their superiors about the probes. Observers say the investigation is expected to grow, and they predict that prosecutors will call for the parliamentary immunity of the implicated ministers to be rescinded.

Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Group think tank says the investigation is one most serious in the country’s history.

"It's revolutionary; nothing of the kind happened in this country before. Of course, corruptions always existed like everywhere in the world. But the scale and the persons involved, indicted - it's unique," said Aktar.

The investigation centers on the alleged laundering of money from Iran to circumvent international sanctions on Tehran, and alleged bribery in the awarding of state contracts for land development.  The Turkish media have broadcast pictures of millions of dollars in cash, found at the home of one of the three sons of government ministers detained, as well as the home of a senior official of the state-owned Halkbank.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is taking a robust stand against the investigation, claiming it is part of a conspiracy against his government.  

"There is a very dirty operation here,” Erdoğan said Thursday. "Some circles inside and outside of Turkey are seeking to hinder Turkey from its rapid growth."
 
Observers say the prime minister sees a powerful Islamist movement led by the cleric Fethullah Gulen as being behind the probe. Gulen's followers are widely believed to be influential both in the judiciary and the police.

But Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, denies the accusation. He was once a strong backer of the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party, particularly in its struggle against the once-dominant army. But tensions have been on the rise in the last 18 months.

Asli Aydintasbas, a political columnist for Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper, says Erdogan will try and use the struggle with Gulen’s supporters to his advantage.
 
"There is no doubt that part of this is the power struggle between the Gulenists and the government. The government’s line will be foreign plot and the Gulenists are working for foreign interests - Israel, US. It's in their interest; Erdogan has always benefited from looking like victim, David and Golia[th]," said Aydintasbas.
 
Observers say the government will be keen to make the judicial investigations be about democracy rather than corruption. But analyst Aktar says if the allegations stick, the consequences for the AK Party could be severe.

"The constituency of the ruling party is composed mainly of destitute masses, and the sums involved mentioned in the press, millions and billions, that might have indeed a quite negative effect on the AK, which is preparing for the next round of elections 2014 and 2015," said Aktar.

Turkey is heading into an 18-month election cycle, with crucial local elections in March, followed by presidential elections in which Erdoğan is widely expected to run and a general election in 2015. The anti-corruption probe could not come at a worse time for the government, and many of its supporters insist this is not a coincidence. Observers say how successful the government is in convincing the country that the probe is more a conspiracy than a corruption investigation could determine the outcome of the upcoming elections.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More